How long before Rick Scott staff quits over Hispanic remarks?

UPDATE: Politico has another email revealing considerable unhappiness and charges of "insulting behavior."

An excerpt: Fernandez shared his blunt view that the reelection operation was months behind schedule, pointing a finger at Scott chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth for alienating top Republican stakeholders from the Scott effort.

Republican political sage Mike Murphy responded to a Crowley Political Report tweet asking "So how long before Scott campaign announces staffer has resigned over Hispanic comments?" with "Veinticuatro horas." 

Okay, Murphy was just being observationally wry. And in a follow-up, Murphy made it clear that he's not giving advice to Scott or his campaign about what should be done.

Our view:  the clock is ticking.

As our previous report noted, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times are reporting that two senior Rick Scott campaign staffers are being accused of making fun of Hispanics during a trip to a Mexican restaurant. 

Now, the Times/Herald have published the complete email from fundraiser Mike Fernandez where that complaint and others about the operation of the Scott campaign are offered in detail.

This does not bode well for Governor Scott who allowed his lieutenant governor - Carlos Lopez Cantera - to publicly and adamantly say the disparaging remarks were not made.

Which begs the question: why would Luis, described as Fernadez's business partner, make the claim? Would there be some reason for him to make this up? And what happens if Luis comes forward publicly?

Murphy gives Scott 24 hours. If the accusation is true - even that may be too long. The damage is already being done.

Follow us on Twitter @crowleyreport

Rick Scott's campaign denies staff made fun of Hispanics now there's an email

Failing still another campaign lesson, Rick Scott's campaign tossed its newly minted Hispanic lieutentant governor into a media frenzy of denial that could badly backfire.


Let us begin at the beginning.

The Miami Herald's intreprid political writer Marc Caputo revealed Friday that Mike Fernandez, a top Scott fundrasier, had resigned from the campaign. One of his concerns was a report from a business partner that top Scott campaign staffers were making fun of Hispanics on the way to a Mexican restaurant.

That must read story is here.

An excerpt:

Before he abruptly resigned as a top fund-raiser for Gov. Rick Scott, health care executive Mike Fernandez complained to top Scott advisers about a “homogeneous” team of campaign advisers who don’t understand the culture of Hispanic voters he needs to win re-election.

Fernandez’s politically explosive complaints were in an email he sent last month that foreshadowed his abrupt resignation last Thursday as co-finance chairman of Scott’s re-election effort. A billionaire owner of and investor in health care plans, Fernandez remains a strong Scott supporter, and hosted a $25,000-per-couple fund-raiser at his Coral Gables mansion Monday that featured 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

But the aftershocks of Fernandez’s resignation are a major distraction for Scott’s campaign and underscore a key part of the Democrats’ opposition strategy: that Republicans can’t relate to Hispanic voters. The most explosive part of Fernandez’s Feb. 20 email was his claim, first reported in the Miami Herald, that two Scott campaign aides imitated a Mexican accent.

When Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said Monday there was “no validity” to the Herald report, it prompted Republicans sympathetic to Fernandez to release a copy of the email, which in broader terms reveals Fernandez’s uneasiness with the direction of Scott’s campaign.

Fernandez’s email indicates that he never heard the comments he complained about. A business partner named “Luis” apparently did on the way to a Chipolte Grill, a Mexican restaurant.

“It’s culturally insensitive for him to hear a senior staff members [sic] mimicking a Mexican accent on the way to Chipotle. It shows that the team does not understand the culture YOU need to win,” Fernandez wrote on his iPad.

Scott's campaign denied the accusation:

Continue reading "Rick Scott's campaign denies staff made fun of Hispanics now there's an email" »

New Poll suggests Jeb Bush should stay out of 2016 presidential campaign

First let's start with something Crowley Political Report has been saying for a decade - Jeb Bush is not going to run for president. Yes, Jeb says he is thinking about it. Yes, there are some folks who would love to see him run (although that apparently does not include his mother). 

Jeb is just being polite when he says he is thinking about it. Of course he is. It's hard not to when Republican operatives, the national media, and Bush admirers keep urging him to think about it.

As a side note - it should be remembered that Bush has not run for office since his 2002 reelection campaign for Florida governor.

Today, a new ABC/Washington Post Poll suggests that it would be an uphill battle for Bush to win the White House.

Rick Klien, ABC political director, writes:

The poll has plenty of good news for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Two-thirds of Americans say they’d consider voting for Clinton in 2016, and a full 25 percent say they will definitely support her. Again, among all Americans – not just Democrats, or Democrats and independents – one in four say they are fully on board for Hillary Clinton right now, no questions asked.

As for Jeb Bush? He has the rock-solid support of just 6 percent, a level that puts him alongside Mike Huckabee and Gov. Chris Christie. He ranks below Sen. Rand Paul, and even Mitt Romney.

What’s worse for him, nearly half of Americans – 48 percent in the poll – say they will definitely not support the former Florida governor for president.


As one close Bush adviser told CPR, "Jeb has a good life, why would he want to put himself through a campaign."

Maybe Jeb should listen to his mother and end the speculation now.

Read more about the poll here.

Rick Scott ducks Chuck Todd question about veto

UPDATE: Gov. Rick Scott's press office asked Crowley Political Report to add this statement:

“I don’t want to tell Governor Brewer what to do, she can do what’s best for her state. From my understanding of that bill, I would veto it in Florida because it seems unnecessary. In Florida we are focused on economic growth, and not on things that divide us. We are for freedom here in Florida.  And we want everyone to come here, create jobs, and live in freedom, and that includes religious liberty. I am very much opposed to forcing anyone to violate their conscience or their religious beliefs, and of course, I’m very much opposed to discrimination. As a society, we need to spend more time learning to love and tolerate each other, and less time trying to win arguments in courts of law. Other states can spend their time fighting over issues like this, but in Florida we are laser focused on creating jobs and opportunities. It’s working, and we need to keep it going and will not get distracted by this or anything else.” – Gov. Rick Scott


Poor Rick Scott. Florida's governor is either terribly ill-advised or he is not following good advice. Whatever the case, Scott's performance on Chuck Todd's The Daily Run Down, was at times painful to watch.

While many Republican leaders are condemning Arizona legislation allowing businesses, based on religious beliefs,  to refuse service to gay customers, Scott insists he knows nothing about the legislation.

Asked by Todd whether he thinks Arizona Gov. Jane Brewer should veto the bill, Scott said, "Chuck I have not seen that bill. What I'm focused on is they have some Spring training teams I want to get back to Florida."

Yup. Scott talked about Spring training. Wonder which adviser told him that was a good idea?

Todd tried again - "Do you think, a bill like that...religious beliefs should be used as a basis for somebody denying services to a gay couple?"

Scott: "I haven't seen that bill. But I can tell you I am trying to recruit companies every day to our state."

Todd does what a reporter does best. Ask the question. Ask again. Let the answers speak for themselves.

Given a chance to weigh in on allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition prices, Scott instead talks about how tuition is too high for everyone. When pressed he said, "I will certainly look at it."

A clip is shown of former Gov. Charlie Crist accusing Scott of not fighting hard enough for Medicaid. Todd asks Scott to reply.

Scott: "First thing I did when we came into office is we revamped our Medicaid program to make sure that its a program that our state could afford and our citizens could get taken care of.  Now let's look at what's happened with ObamaCare....."

Screeeeeech. So let's stop for a moment and note that Scott quickly pivots away from the question by switching to his ObamaCare talking points.

Todd: "Let's stick first to Medicaid...."

Nope. Not gonna do it. Scott rambles about the Florida legislature and informs Todd and viewers that "we have three branches of government."

Yes. Yes we do.

Early in the interview, Todd notes polls showing that Florida voters give Democrat Crist far higher approval ratings for his time as governor than they do Scott. And Todd notes that a recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 54 percent of those surveyed do not think Scott deserves a second term.

Todd: "Why do you think Charlie Crist's days as governor are being remembered more fondly then your days as governor?"

Scott goes right to the talking points: 'Let's look at the facts. While he was governor the state lost 832,000 jobs....."

 Talking points are swell. But sometimes a candidate needs to toss the talking points. Scott clearly needed to do that during this interview. 

Watch it below: 

AlfonZo Rachel says Charlie Crist is blaming the black guy

When former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, he told Stephen Colbert that his infamous hug with President Obama got a fierce reaction, in part, because Obama is African American. This made AlfonZo Rachel unhappy.

AlfonZo Rachel, a self-described "Christian conservative," has received more than 11,000 views, and growing,  of his six-minute video criticizing Crist for joininng the party of racism for blaming "this black guy" for ending his career as a Republican.

The video is very well done but there are some bizarre conclusions including one where Rachel says environmentalists, "put the planet before people."

Except for that slight detour the entire video takes on Crist. Rachel strongly defends the Tea Party and shows several pictures of Tea Party political stars hugging black people. He suggests that Crist joined the real racists when he became a Democrat.

While it is not likely that his video is going to have any impact on the expected race for governor between Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott, the video is another example that in today's political world attacks can come from surprising places.

Some excerpts:

"I wonder if Charlie Crist realizes that he's the one that he's the one who just blamed a black person for crippling his career."

"Crist be like, it's not because I actually suck, no way. My game got all messed up because of this black guy."

"Charlie Crist is trying to accuse the Republican Party of racism - meanwhile he joined the party of racism."

"Being the weeny that he is, he can't own up to the fact that he was no longer a good Republican representative and placed the blame on the black guy."

"Charlie, it's not the Tea Party that has a problem with blacks, it's you." 


Charlie Crist does Stephen Colbert and its worth watching

Appearing on the Stephen Colbert's comedy show can be a dicey thing. Many a politician has squirmed and died on the show.

One can only imagine how well Florida Gov. Rick Scott, not known for his effervescent personality, would do with Colbert.

Among the questions Colbert asks Crist:

"You're running for governor of Florida again. Now as a Democrat against Rick Scott   Do you even have to campaign? Can't you just say - I'm Charlie Crist I used to be governor how about more of that?"

"Are you afraid of Rick Scott?"

"You're not afraid he is going to unhinge his jaw and try to swallow you? I mean you're running against a native Florida swamp creature. That doesn't frighten you in any way?"

"Reach, pull, release - are those the three words you want to use when you are talking about the President of the United States?"

"You're not going to play the race card?"

  As you can tell from the questions, Colbert is not a fan of Scott.  


Will Jeb Bush say enough is enough to Charlie Crist?

One has to wonder whether Jeb Bush is getting a bit weary of Charlie Crist evoking Bush's name at every opportunity. Crist was on television Wednesday talking to CNN's Piers Morgan and once again used the "my friend" Jeb Bush line.

Friend? Not likely.

Bush has made it pretty clear that he is not a big fan of the newly minted Democratic candidate for governor.  And while Bush may not be thrilled with Florida Governor Rick Scott , (his endosrement of Scott was a bit tepid), one can imagine him getting weary of Crist dropping his name.

This could be a dangerous political game Crist is playing. Bush has been relatively quiet about the governor's race. It is  in Crist's best interest that Bush remains silent. 

Each time Crist uses Bush as a prop, he run the risk that Bush will very publicly say - enough is enough.


Peter Schorsch reports Congressman Young is dead and Schorsch is dead wrong

Florida Congressman Bill Young is gravely ill. On Thursday, however, he was Twitter dead.

At 12:32 PM - 17 Oct 13, Peter Schorsch,author of SaintPetersblog, tweeted

Getting first word of some very, very sad news ...

At 12:34, Schorsch tweeted this:

A relative of Congressman C.W. Bill Young tells me the iconic Republican lawmaker has passed away. 

More on that relative later.  Let's just say for now "relative" may be technically correct but it's a bit like finding out that President Obama is a distant relative of the Queen of England.

Schorsch's next two tweets:

There had been a great deal of concern about the Congressman's health over the last 48 hours.

Information is not yet confirmed with Congressman Young's office or Walter Reed Hospital.

Now this last tweet might make a reasonable person pause. But at 12:45, Schorsch pronounces Young dead:

Now confirmed with multiple sources, Republican Congressman C.W. "Bill" Young has died at 82.

Next tweet:

Iconic Republican lawmaker C.W. "Bill" has died. 

The link is apparently to a Schorsch quick obit about Young. The link no longer works.

In another tweet, Schorsch says he has "tears" as he writes. His next tweet notes that NBC's Luke Russert now also reporting BIll Young has died.

Continue reading "Peter Schorsch reports Congressman Young is dead and Schorsch is dead wrong" »

What Florida newspapers could learn from Peter Schorsch

While Florida newspapers are struggling to woo back advertising, newspaper owners and editors remain oblivious to the obvious. Some of them might want to have a chat with Peter Schorsch.

 Schorsch has just launched Context Florida – basically a website featuring columns from a wide variety of Floridians.  He did not have the idea first. Instead, he picked up the pieces of Florida Voices, an ambitious effort that ultimately failed because the founders struggled to find enough advertisers.

 In that failure, Schorsch sees opportunity.  He has kept many of the original writers and editors. And he is adding more.  He also has a track record for bringing in advertising. 

 This is not the first time that Schorsch has capitalized on someone else’s idea.  Not long ago he created Sunburn – a daily compendium of political news stories that are emailed free to subscribers.  It is a nearly an exact copy of the popular Politico Playbook by Mike Allen.  Schorsch even chatted with the folks at Politico about his idea to offer a Florida version.

 The cornerstone of Schorsch’s mini internet empire is SaintPetersBlog.  Through sheer pluck, he turned that blog into a must-read in the St. Petersburg area.  He later pushed hard to make himself a presence in Tallahassee.

 He is shameless. He is brash. He is combative. He apparently never sleeps.

Continue reading "What Florida newspapers could learn from Peter Schorsch" »

Who not to tick off in Tallahassee

Press corps skits one
Many of them have been in Florida's Capital for decades. They have seen it all.  They have a reputation as one of the toughest groups in the nation. And they are not to be fooled with or you will really tick them off.

Florida's Capital Press Corps is about to embark on another legislative session. It is a considerably smaller group than it once was. News organizations have sharply cut back and much talent has been lost.

But for those of you who dismiss the "Mainstream Media," you do so at your peril. No one looks deeper, works harder, knows more, and has more impact in Tallahassee than the Capital Press Corps.


Many of the "leaders" in Tallahassee learn this the hard way. No one has had a tougher lesson than Gov. Rick Scott who stormed the Capital two years ago with a haughty attitude toward the press corps that created a lasting anmosity. He is still paying the price.

Consider this - some of the reporters have been in Tallahassee since Bob Graham was governor. Many can name the last 10 House Speakers and Senate Presidents. 

They know how long Wayne Mixson was governor (look it up).

Of course no one is perfect. The press corps will spend the next 60 days telling readers and viewers about every tiny step in passing the state budget. After all is said and done, they will spend almost no time during the next 10 months actually following how the money is spent.

Sometimes you get the feeling that they have been in Tallahassee too long and need to spend a couple of months back at their home newspapers to get a better feel for their readers. They might learn that no one cares that the deputy assistant to the assistant deputy has been transferred from the who-cares Senate Committee to the who-cares House Committee.

But that is nitpicking. When it matters, there is no tougher group of reporters. They carry on a long tradition that dates back to the 1970s when reporters like Bob Shaw, Virginia Ellis, John Van Gieson, Barbara Frye, Bill Mansfield, and others raised hell.

Who do you think are the best reporters in Tallahassee today?

Bonus points if you can name reporters in photo above.

  Press corps

Sergio Bendixen disagrees with our poll analysis

Prominent pollster Sergio Bendixen of Bendixen & Amandi International disagrees with Crowley Political Report's view of recent polling of Cuban-American voters. That story, which appeared here and in Columbia Journalism Review noted considerably confusion in the reporting of polls and questioned the disparity among pollsters. I think Mr. Bendixen may have missed the point.

Since Mr. Bendixen spent time writing a lengthy rebuttal (which he added as a comment to the original story) - it seems only fair to post his reply here:

From Sergio Bendixen

When I first came to the United States from Peru in 1961, Ricky Ricardo was the only television personality I could identify with. So any time his image is used to challenge anything Cuban, I must come to his defense. 

The recent Crowley Political Report is missing some important information which has obviously clouded the judgment of its author when it comes to his conclusions. 

1.) Most - if not all - researchers and pollsters agree that if you want to accurately measure the voting behavior of a demographic group, exit polling is the best way to do it, as long as it includes interviews with absentee and other early voters. Pre-election polls cannot predict accurately which voters will show up at the polls and which voters will not. Precinct analysis of voting results cannot reveal the voting behavior of Cuban voters because there are no "pure Cuban" precincts in Miami-Dade County or any other county in the United States. The top 50 "Cuban precincts" in Miami-Dade County (according to the U. S. Census) have a substantial percentage (20% to 50%) of African American, White Anglo and non-Cuban Hispanic registered voters within them.

 2.) The only organizations that conducted an exit poll in Florida among Cuban voters were Edison Research (for the major television networks and AP), the Pew Hispanic Center and Bendixen & Amandi International (B&A: my firm). All of the other polls and studies that Mr. Crowley mentions in his report were either pre-election polls or post-election precinct analysis of Miami-Dade "Cuban precincts." Those include the FIU/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll of likely Florida Hispanic voters conducted by Professor Eduardo Gamarra in October, the FIU post-election precinct analysis utilizing "ecological regression" methodology conducted by Professor Dario Moreno (incorrectly identified in the Crowley report as an exit poll), and the Latino Decisions "eve of the election" Florida Hispanic poll. The report also cites an electoral analysis by Professor Ben Bishin of the University of California at Riverside.

 3.) Mr. Crowley misses an obvious pattern in the data. The three statewide exit polls show extremely similar results. All of them show Obama and Romney splitting the statewide Cuban vote (Edison and Pew had Obama at 49% and Bendixen & Amandi had Obama at 48%). In other words, all three exit polls had the same finding - Cuban voters supported a Democratic presidential candidate at a historic level in 2012.

Continue reading "Sergio Bendixen disagrees with our poll analysis" »

Florida, Cuban voters, the media and what went wrong

This first appeared in Columbia Journalism Review

Ricky Ricardo


By Brian E. Crowley

Somehow the Florida election is beginning to feel a bit like an episode from the old I Love Lucy comedy. Not only did the Sunshine State hang over election results for four days—and still counting in some races—but there has been forehead-slapping confusion over who won the Cuban-American vote here, by how much, and what it might mean. The confusion has been fueled by a collection of all-over-the-map poll numbers variously cited, depending on the news source, to draw premature conclusions about this unique voting population.

So let’s start with this widely repeated statement by Cuban-American Ricky Ricardo to his wife: “Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do.”

Continue reading "Florida, Cuban voters, the media and what went wrong" »

Tampa Bay Times endorses Barack Obama

No one should be surprised that the Tampa Bay Times has endorsed President Obama for a second term. The newspaper is long known for its thoughtful, liberal editorial view and the odds of Mitt Romney getting the endorsement were always nil.

Still, one should take the Times endorsement seriously. While the I-4 corridor is vital to the presidential election - no section is more vital than the one that goes through Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Florida newspaper endorsements are evenly split with Romney picking up the Orlando Sentinel yesterday.

It is a shame that neither newspaper wanted to wait until the finish of Monday's debate. 

Some excerpts from the Times editorial:

This is not the time to reverse course and return to the failed policies of the past. Without hesitation, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Barack Obama for re-election as president.


By many measures, the economy is improving steadily even if growth remains painfully slow. There have been 31 straight months of job growth, and more than 5 million private sector jobs have been created. The unemployment rate is down to 7.8 percent — not great, but the same as when Obama took office.


There is still too much economic pain, but America is better off than most of the rest of the industrialized world.

Continue reading "Tampa Bay Times endorses Barack Obama" »

Why was the Nelson-Mack debate kept off some front pages?

This first appeared in Columbia Journalism Review.

PenheadBy Brian E. Crowley

One of the shameful things about Florida’s US Senate race is that the two candidates, Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican challenger, Congressman Connie Mack, agreed to meet in just one debate.

That statewide television debate was Wednesday night. And while it was extensively covered by the media, I was amazed that some of the state’s newspapers did not put their stories on the front page Thursday morning.

My view is that in making that choice, they did a serious disservice to Florida voters. This is an important race not only for Floridians but for the nation, as the contest could help determine which political party will control the US Senate.

It’s true that the content of the hour-long debate left much to be desired (the candidates argued at length about a tax credit for cows on Nelson’s property, and whether Mack was claiming more than one homestead exemption), but as an editor I would have done what most Florida newspapers did—played the debate story prominently on A1.

Editors at The Palm Beach PostThe Miami Herald, and the Tallahassee Democrat took a different route, pushing their stories to the inside pages. The clear signal to readers was that these newspapers did not deem the debate—and by extension, the Senate race—important, and perhaps neither should the readers.

Continue reading "Why was the Nelson-Mack debate kept off some front pages?" »

Orlando Sentinel endorses Romney does it matter

Republicans may hate the "main stream media" but right now they are in love with the Orlando Sentinel which endorsed Mitt Romney for president and slammed President Obama for what it describes as his lack of leadership.

Does the endorsement matter?


Especially if Romney and his surrogrates move quickly to get ads up on television touting the Sentinel's endorsement.  Unless another major Florida newspaper endorses Obama in the next couple of days, Romney will have bragging rights all to himself.

And with Florida's fragile voters it could make a difference. Florida is no sure thing for the Democrats and Obama's lead has always been tenuous. 

The Sentinel may help Romney gain momentum and sway independent voters in the critical I-4 corridor.

Some excerpts from the endorsement:

We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years. For that reason, though we endorsed him in 2008, we are recommending Romney in this race.


Other presidents have succeeded even with the other party controlling Capitol Hill. Democrat Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom and balanced the budget working with Republicans. Leaders find a way.


The next president is likely to be dealing with a Congress where at least one, if not both, chambers are controlled by Republicans. It verges on magical thinking to expect Obama to get different results in the next four years.

Continue reading "Orlando Sentinel endorses Romney does it matter" »

Does Cuba really matter in the presidential campaign?

This first appeared in Columbia Journalism Review.

By Brian E. Crowley

FLORIDA — Does Cuba really matter?

If asked that question by a reporter, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would likely reply: Yes, absolutely.

Unfortunately, the question of whether Cuba matters—and how, and to whom—is rarely explored in the media, even as Cuba’s role in shaping politics in this key swing state is taken for granted.

Instead, most reporters take the easy way out, especially those from outside Florida. The reporting will generally be something like this:

Presidential candidate X came to South Florida today to assure Cuban-Americans that if elected he will strongly oppose the Castro regime and refuse to lift the embargo until human rights and freedom are restored. Florida’s Cuban exile community is one of this swing-state’s most important voting blocs.

This is careless and cliché-laden reporting. And while President Obama’s shifts in policy and rhetoric have introduced a slightly different frame, too much is obscured when reporters accept politicians’ sound bites, whether it’s Mitt Romney’s declaration that “the regime will feel the full weight of American resolve” or Obama’s promise that he will “send a signal that we are prepared to show flexibility and not be stuck in a cold war mentality dating back to when I was born.”

The United States embargo against Cuba is a complex topic that creates deep divisions in Congress and, perhaps more importantly, within the Cuban-American community. Agricultural interests and other industries outside of Florida have long questioned the validity of continuing the embargo—but have largely failed in their efforts to shift the policy because of the influence of hard-core, pro-embargo Cuban-Americans who long ago learned how to wield political power.

Continue reading "Does Cuba really matter in the presidential campaign?" »

Florida media goes to extremes at Republican National Convention

PenheadThis first appeared today in Columbia Journalism Review

By Brian E. Crowley

TAMPA — On Wednesday, the morning after the first night of the Republican National Convention, the front page of the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun Sentinel—the paper with the fourth-largest daily circulation in Florida—had not a single story about the GOP gathering. Not even a tease to inside coverage. There was nothing on the front about Ann Romney’s speech. There was nothing about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s speech, or that of any other speaker. The lede story was about problems with school bus drivers. A top-of-the-fold feature package was about a 17-year-old girl who is a high school quarterback.

Things were very different in Tampa, 264 miles to the northwest, where the GOP has gathered this week. Here, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico teamed together to publish a four-section package of more 50 stories and dozens of graphics, photos, and sidebar tidbits. It spread over 32 pages. Eight of those pages were taken up by a paid political advertisement for the American Clean Skies Foundation (the organization promotes the production of natural gas in shale rock); the remaining 24 were largely filled with convention coverage.

Stories ranged from speech coverage to an interesting analysis of the Republican Party that Mitt Romney is about to lead. There were articles about the Florida delegation bus being delayed for hours, problems with traffic, celebrity sightings, and even how the convention has had little impact on kids going to school. To say that there was no stone left unturned is to put it mildly.

Continue reading "Florida media goes to extremes at Republican National Convention" »

RNC, the War Room, Jon Voight and more

Jon voight 2

This first appeared today in Columbia Journalism Review

By Brian E. Crowley

TAMPA — In a large room, just off the main floor of the Tampa Convention Center, there are about 100 men and women sitting quietly at computers looking very much like employees of the major news organizations covering the 2012 Republican National Convention.

They are not. This is the media war room of the Republican National Committee and the Mitt Romney campaign. Many of the folks inside are volunteers who are assigned to monitor and “assist” various media organizations. They write news releases, do research, keep track of story trends, and reach out to reporters either to inform or push back, depending on the circumstances.

Each network and major cable outlet has been assigned its own RNC war roomer. There are folks responsible for regional news organizations. Others are there to monitor major print organizations. This is also where much of the rapid response operation—for example, a quick reaction (emailed press release) to an attack by the Obama campaign—takes place.

On this morning, the delayed opening day of the convention, everyone appears busy but not frantic. I take the time to chat with a couple of folks including GOP operatives Mark Pfeifle and Kristy Campbell.

As the media continues its march to the convention center (where many of them file) and the Tampa Bay Times Forum (where the convention action is, about a third of a mile from the convention center), it is not likely to stay quiet in this room much longer. And while reporters like to think no one puts words in their mouths, the fact is that much of the rhetoric that will come out of this convention will be crafted in—and sent forth from—the war room.

* * *

Wandering over toward the Politico work station in the media filing center (across the hall from the war room), I am amused watching a photographer approached by one of Politico’s PR folks. The photographer wants to get a shot of Politico’s convention operation but the PR woman is a bit cautious, asking what kind of story he is doing. He gets his picture, but she would still like to hear back about the story. The photographer smiles, says thank you, and moves on.

* * *

In the main convention center hallway, a clutch of reporters is gathered around actor Jon Voight. While Voight has made some great movies—Midnight CowboyDeliverance,Mission: Impossible—when he is just playing himself he sounds mostly like an aging crank who fears the government is on the verge of collapse. With a slow start to the convention, he is one of hate the mainstream media gaggle who wanders the hall hoping to be interviewed. It is not clear why reporters continue to oblige him—but, they do.

* * *

Hurricane Isaac continues to have an impact on convention coverage with CNN and Fox News having relocated big news names (Anderson Cooper and Shep Smith, respectively) from Tampa to New Orleans. Parts of South Florida had serious flooding and some Florida television crews stayed home to cover the damage.

Still, there are thousands of credentialed journalists here. More than enough to keep the media war room—and Jon Voight—quite busy.

Republican National Convention and a wince

The story below appears in Columbia Journalism Review

By Brian E. Crowley

TAMPA — Wince. That was my first reaction as I started to read a Sunday storyabout the Republican National Convention by Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith and Politico national political editor Charles Mahtesian.

It began as if written by a copy writer for the marketing department of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Welcome to Florida, Republican conventioneers.

Let’s not mince words: You are in the most important state in America.

You already know this is America’s biggest battleground and that if Mitt Romney loses our 29 electoral votes Barack Obama is almost certainly re-elected. But with Florida it’s more than that.

This is a mega state so diverse that it mirrors the nation’s moods, sentiments and demographics. Florida is America—today’s America and tomorrow’s.

“It’s become a nation-state, just as New York and California were at their peak and Ohio was a century ago,” said historian Richard Norton Smith, a venerable chronicler of American politics.


Frankly, if I did not already know that Smith is one of Florida’s best political writers I might have stopped there. Fortunately, while the over-the-top prose continued to pop up occasionally, Smith and Mahtesian quickly redeem themselves with a well-written and informative piece that outshines most of the competition.

Continue reading "Republican National Convention and a wince" »

America's next Bush?

The Bush family political dynasty would appear to some to be on hold but the Prince-in-Waiting, isn't going to be on the sidelines much longer.

George P. Bush, son of Jeb, appears to be raising his profile and moving closer to the day when he will begin his political career. He has popped up in a number of interviews over the past few months and has made it clear that "public service" is an important part of his vision for himself.

His latest interview is with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl (see it below).

You can expect to see Bush at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. While Bush is likely to begin his political career in Texas, don't count out Jeb Bush Jr. who may follow his father's footsteps by launching his political career in Florida.